Remembering George Romero: 6 Underrated Non-Zombie Films: the late filmmaker will forever be linked to his iconic zombie series, but here are some other works from his filmography that also deserve your attention.
The late George Romero (who died this past Sunday at the age of 77) made zombies hip. The filmmaker took a horror sub-genre away from the realms of haunted Gothic mansions and supernatural origins and gave it more organic and terrifying roots. In his classic 1967 film Night of the Living Dead, the recently deceased sprung back to life from unexplained origins, which made it all the more unsettling. And its had a lasting impact on horror movies and television ever since.
Romero was known for societal commentary in his zombie films, and film critics noted that these movies touched on everything from the Vietnam War to the civil rights movement (and in the case of Dawn of the Dead, blind consumerism). For a moment, he seized the cultural zeitgeist. for whatever reason, the rest of his filmography never attained the same critical heights.
Why? Perhaps because Romero tried to stretch his wings in and out of the horror genre, attempting different stylistic choices and themes. He was a maverick in every sense of the word.
While his track record was spotty at points, he has a host of unsung gems, which I’m here to champion. Let’s look at 6 of his best non-dead movies.
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The Crazies saw Romero do a variation page on his zombie template, focusing on a small town community besieged by a violent threat. But instead of zombies, it’s a synthetic virus that turns its victims into homicidal maniacs.
As is often the case with Romero films, The Crazies is more than just a horror film packed with jolts–it’s also an examination of our distrust in government and the horrifying implications of biological warfare. The chilling 2009 remake is also worth a look.
One of Romero’s better reviewed movies from his 21st century output, Bruiser is an eerie tale of Henry (played by Jason Fleyming) who awakens with a disturbing, featureless face resembling a mime mask.
A man who was been victimized and diminished all his life now has the undetectable appearance allowing him to commit violent retribution.
Starring a young Ed Harris, Knightriders is Romero’s must unusual film, both in tone and concept. It’s a tale of a group of renaissance fair performers who joust on motorcycles.
If that wasn’t unusual enough, the film is more personal drama than action piece, where ringleader Harris fights against the commercialization of his craft, leading to a philosophical battle with his business partner (played by makeup artist Tom Savini).
The positive attributes of therapy animals is downplayed in this terrifying isolated horror film.
Allan (Jason Beghe) is a young athlete stewing with rage after an accident leaves him a quadriplegic. He’s assigned Ella, a monkey who helps him with simple tasks and keeps him company.
Their bond unfortunately unravels when Ella acts out violently, sending on Allan’s pent-up frustrations while also becoming jealous of his relationship with new girlfriend Melanie (Kate McNeil). Things don’t end well.
Monkey Shines isn’t Romero’s finest horror film (it was bashed by critics), but it packs in plenty of scares into its compact small-scale plot, and deserves a second look.
Romero’s unique take on the vampire thriller focuses on Martin, a young introvert who is convinced that he’s actually an ancient vampire. Plying victims with sedatives and drinking their blood after slashing them with razor blades, Martin voraciously feeds his habit, leaving it up to audiences to decide if he’s of supernatural or manmade origin.
Romero has stated Martin is his favorite film, and a criminally unsung one at that. It’s one of the most striking and unusual vampire movies ever made.
Creepshow is certainly the most well-known film on this list. But even still, it feels underrated. Romero and Stephen King’s anthology approach, utilizing E.C. Comics style framing devices, was inventive and fresh, and each vignette features wonderful gallows humor and grisly imagery.
From a tale of the worst Father’s Day ever to a terrifying creature in a crate, to Stephen King as a meteorite infected country yokel to the horrifying roach-filled finale, Creepshow is a garish delight that still thrills.
I hope this list will inspire horror fans to seek out these underrated Romero movies! There’s no better time to celebrate his cinematic legacy. May he live forever undead in our hearts.
RIP George Romero (1940-2017)